Savage set to bolster Welsh midfield

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The Independent Football

Robbie Savage should return to add a little bite to the Wales midfield tomorrow night despite having a problem with his neck.

Robbie Savage should return to add a little bite to the Wales midfield tomorrow night despite having a problem with his neck.

Savage underwent a precautionary X-ray yesterday but is expected to start against Poland in Cardiff in the World Cup qualifier. The Welsh will be delighted as Savage's aggression was sorely missed during the lacklustre 2-0 defeat against England at Old Trafford at the weekend as he was serving a one-match ban following his red card against Northern Ireland last month.

The pain in the neck is a concern for Savage as he underwent a serious operation in the summer which could have ended his career. He had been feeling some soreness in the area this week thus prompting the X-ray.

His captain, Gary Speed, feels Savage's presence alongside him is essential to the Welsh cause. "Robbie gives a lot to us and we miss him when he's not there," Speed said. "He was a loss against England even though he has his critics, he is appreciated by his team-mates and the management and he gives a lot to this Wales team."

Wales also have the Cardiff full-back Rhys Weston fit after a hamstring injury and he is being tipped to take over at right-back, allowing Mark Delaney, who was a late replacement for Andy Melville at Old Trafford, to continue in the centre of defence.

Melville, along with Robert Page, Andy Johnson and Gareth Taylor are all still out of contention. Weston could play full-back, as could Carl Fletcher or John Oster, but it is certain that the winger Simon Davies - an emergency defender against England - will return to his usual position in midfield.

Meanwhile, Speed was eager to defend his departing manager Mark Hughes. Speed, who will set a record of 44 games as Wales captain against the Poles, said: "Criticism does get under peoples' skin, but I am old enough now not to take any notice of it.

"The easy bit is to sit away from things and to criticise, but the players don't take much notice. It comes with the territory, if you are playing for your country and don't play well you know you are going to get criticised but I believe Mark is the best man for the job in Wales and he has proved that. The FA of Wales made a fantastic appointment when they made Mark manager because we have made fantastic strides from what it was like before he came to power.

"He has left us in a better state than what he inherited. Mark is the best man for the job in Welsh football and there is no one else that could have done a better job."

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